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Airlines suspend China flights, cut services on virus fears

Last Updated Jan 29, 2020 at 9:29 am MST

File photo of an airliner on a tarmac.

British Airways said Wednesday it is halting all flights to China, joining several Asian carriers that are either suspending or significantly cutting back service there as fears spread about a new virus that has killed more than 130 people.

Air India and South Korean budget carrier Seoul Air are also halting all flights to the country, and Indonesia’s Lion Air plans to do the same. Other carriers including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, Air India and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are slashing service.

BA took some of the most decisive action so far, immediately suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to the country amid a virus outbreak.

The airline operates daily flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to Shanghai and Beijing. It took the measure a day after Britain’s Foreign Office updated its travel advice on China, warning against “all but essential travel” to the mainland, not including Hong Kong and Macao.

China has cut off access to the central city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak, and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. That has trapped more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed. The outbreak has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad.

Online flight notice boards for the Beijing and Shanghai airports showed numerous cancellations for both domestic and foreign airlines on Wednesday:

—Air Canada said it is cancelling select routes due to a fall in demand. “In response to the coronavirus situation, we are cancelling select flights to China to better match capacity with expected demand,” the airline said in a statement.

—Air Seoul, a budget airline, became the first South Korean airline to suspend its fights to mainland Chinese destinations apart from Wuhan, stopping its flights to the cities of Zhangjiajie and Linyi.

—Indonesia’s Lion Air said it has cancelled more than 50 flights to China well into February. The flights are from five international airports in Manado, Surabaya, Jakarta, Batam and from Denpasar, in Bali, to 15 airports in China. The suspension will be phased in gradually and continue until further notice.

—Hong Kong airlines are cutting the number of their flights to the mainland by about half through the end of March in response to government virus-control efforts.

—Cathay Pacific Group said flights to 24 mainland destinations would be reduced to 240 weekly. The company owns Cathay Pacific Airways , cargo carrier Air Hong Kong, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong Express.

—Air India is suspending Delhi-Shanghai flights, which operate six times a week, from Friday until Feb. 14.

—Finland’s Finnair, which has actively promoted its position linking Asian and Western destinations, said it was cancelling three weekly flights to Beijing Daxing International Airport through late March, as well as its twice-weekly flights to Nanjing.

—Jetstar Asia will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Hefei, Guiyang and Xuzhou starting Thursday through the end of March due to a drop in demand.

—South Korea’s second-largest carrier, Asiana Airlines, will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Guilin, Changsha and Haikou starting next month.

—Korean Air, South Korea’s biggest airline, said it is also considering grounding some of its flights to mainland China as passenger demand drops. Korean Air had operated four flights a week to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, before suspending them on Jan. 23.

—Taiwan’s Eva Air announced a partial cancellation of flights to and from mainland China for two weeks starting Feb. 2. In addition, the airline also has stopped providing towels, magazines, table clothes, and is limiting use of blankets and pillows on its flights.

—Kazakhstan, which shares a long border with far western China, announced Wednesday that it plans to suspend all flights, train and bus traffic and to halt issuing visas to Chinese nationals. Before the Wednesday’s suspension, there were 24 flights a week from Kazakhstan to China, including a daily flight to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

—Japan’s JAL said it had not changed its flight plans, while German carrier Lufthansa said it was monitoring the situation “very closely” and would if necessary make changes in consultation with the authorities.

Niniek Karmini and Edna Tarigan in Jakarta, Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Daria Litvinova in Moscow, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Tong-hyung Kim in Seoul, Penny Wang in Bangkok and Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

British Airways and Asian budget carriers Lion Air and Seoul Air are suspending flights to China as fears spread about the outbreak of a new virus that has killed more than 130 people.

Several other airlines including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are reducing the number of flights to the country as demand for travel drops because of the outbreak.

Air Canada said it is cancelling select routes due to a fall in demand.

“In response to the coronavirus situation, we are cancelling select flights to China to better match capacity with expected demand,” the airlines said in a statement.

“Air Canada currently operates 33 flights a week to China and the resulting capacity reduction is relatively small. Those customers who are affected will be notified and provided with alternate travel options.”

British Airways said Wednesday it is immediately suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to the country amid a virus outbreak.

The airline operates daily flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to Shanghai and Beijing. It took the measure a day after Britain’s Foreign Office updated its travel advice on China, warning against “all but essential travel” to the mainland, not including Hong Kong and Macao.

Air Seoul, a budget airline, became the first South Korean airline to suspend its fights to mainland Chinese destinations that wasn’t Wuhan, stopping its flights to the cities of Zhangjiajie and Linyi.

Lion Air said it has cancelled more than 50 flights to China well into February. The flights are from five international airports in Denpasar, Manado, Surabaya, Jakarta and Batam to 15 airports in China.

Lion Group spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantor said the suspension would be phased in gradually and would continue until further notice.

China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. The outbreak has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad.

Hong Kong airlines are cutting the number of their flights to the mainland by about half through the end of March in response to government virus-control efforts.

Cathay Pacific Group said flights to 24 mainland destinations would be reduced to 240 weekly. The company owns Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong Airlines, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong Express.

Helsinki, Finland-based Finnair, which has actively promoted its position linking Asian and Western destinations, said it was cancelling three weekly flights to Beijing Daxing International Airport through late March, as well as its twice-weekly flights to Nanjing. It will continue operating flights to four other mainland Chinese destinations, including Beijing Capital Airport.

Jetstar Asia said it will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Hefei, Guiyang and Xuzhou starting Thursday through the end of March due to a drop in demand.

South Korea’s second-largest carrier, Asiana Airlines, said it will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Guilin, Changsha and Haikou starting next month.

Korean Air, South Korea’s biggest airline, said it is also considering grounding some of its flights to mainland China as passenger demand drops. Korean Air had operated four flights a week to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, before suspending them on Jan. 23.

Taiwan’s Eva Air announced a partial cancellation of flights to and from mainland China for two weeks starting Feb. 2. In addition, the airline also has stopped providing towels, magazines, table clothes, and is limiting blanket and pillow in flight.